Boris Johnson’s suggestion that headphone wearing cyclists contribute to deaths enrages campaigners

Boris Johnson in cycle controversy. Pic: Conservative Party

Boris Johnson in cycle controversy. Pic: Conservative Party

Boris Johnson has enraged London cycling campaigners by suggesting that cyclists should be prohibited from wearing headphones.

The Mayor made his comments to BBC London 94.9 on Tuesday morning, reaffirming his controversial view that any infrastructure solutions could not make London’s roads safer.

Johnson went on to criticise cyclists wearing headphones: “Call me illiberal but it makes me absolutely terrified to see [cyclists] bowling along unable to hear traffic.”

The London Cycling Campaign spoke out against the Mayor’s comments, as chief executive Ashok Sinha said:

“Telling cyclists to wear more high-visibility clothing and helmets, and suggesting deaths and serious injuries are related to cyclists wearing headphones is a distraction from the very real problems the Mayor needs to address.”

Sinha added that the most effective way for the Mayor to address the cycling deaths would be to fix the “countless poorly designed junctions that every day put hundreds of thousands of London cyclists in avoidable danger.”

According to the group, 10,000 Londoners have used the Cycling Campaign’s website to email the mayor, calling on him to take immediate action on the Superhighway 2: a road that includes the notorious Bow Roundabout in Tower Hamlets, where 24-year-old Venera Minakhmetova was killed last week.

Officers inspect a lorry. Pic: Met Police

Officers inspect a lorry. Pic: Met Police

Less than 24 hours earlier, 15 fixed penalty notices totalling £2,300 were handed out to lorry drivers in Tower Hamlets as the Metropolitan Police launched their own safety campaign.

Over 70 lorries were stopped and checked on Whitechapel Road and Albert Embankment between 7am and 11am on Monday morning as fines were handed out for offences such as driving for more hours than legally permitted and having vehicles unfit for the road.

Around 100 cyclists were also stopped and given safety advice from officers, including recommendations against wearing headphones while riding and cutting corners.

Police stop cyclists and lorries in Tower Hamlets. Pic: Ken Jon Bro

Police stop cyclists and lorries in Tower Hamlets. Pic: Ken Jon Bro

Chief Superintendent of the Met’s Traffic Command, Glyn Jones, said: “Our objective today was to raise people’s awareness of the safety measures and to check that lorries and their drivers were fit to be on the roads. While today’s operation focused on cyclists and lorry drivers, our overall message goes to pedestrians and other drivers too. Our message is do everything within your power to be safe on the roads.”

Jones added that the goal was not to blame one particular road user; instead police were urging everyone using the road to take “the very best care for the sake of themselves and others.”

The operation had been planned before the string of recent cycling deaths and was not done in cooperation with the Mayor’s Office. However, another will be held this week in direct response to the public outcry.

Officers will be stopping motorcyclists and cyclists alike, warning them about potential dangerous habits on the road.

The operation will take place at Anchor Retail Park on Mile End Road in Tower Hamlets on Wednesday November 20.

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